'Hooping for a Cure' a Slam Dunk

March 29, 2012

Brent Crossman was 12 years old in 1982 when his mother, now Sonja Reithan, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

It was impossible for him to understand at that point all that she went through with chemotherapy and a mastectomy. Thankfully, she survived.

He was much older when his sister Kenna Crossman died in 1998 after battling a brain tumor.

Charlotte High School's “Hooping for a Cure” players vs. teachers basketball games began as a way to honor his mom and raise money for the American Cancer Society. But this month’s game, the fifth in what is now an annual event, hit home again for the Orioles community.

On Jan. 2, Tina Droscha – whose son Adam is the senior class president – died after a 14-year battle against breast cancer. Then, on Feb. 4, former standout athlete Blake Rankin (class of 2011) died after fighting mouth cancer.

“I tell people, I wish I was one of these guys who just picked this cause and decided to be passionate about it. But it picked me,” said Crossman, who was the girls varsity coach from 1998-2007 and also has coached baseball and golf at the school. “When I lost my sister in 1998, it changed my life. I watched her go from a wonderful, healthy person with no issues to bed-ridden and I’m-carrying-her-to-the-bathroom kind of stuff.

“It got me all fired up. I was passionate and gung-ho about it. And when I started coaching basketball and became a teacher here, I was active and involved anyway and I knew I had avenues others didn’t have.”

This season's Hooping for a Cure game was played March 10 and raised $6,500.

It is set up with the usual four quarters – but with freshmen playing the first, sophomores the second, juniors the third and seniors the fourth. Each grade has 15 players made up of both boys and girls. They take on a team of teachers and staff that also rotates in and out of the line-up.

The first game raised roughly $2,000. That donation doubled the next year.

This year, Crossman’s crew sold more than 900 “Hunt for a Cure” shirts in honor of Rankin, a passionate outdoorsman (and the teams also wore them for the game). Balls autographed by Michigan State coaches Tom Izzo, Suzy Merchant and Mark Dantonio were raffled, and spectators also were treated to performances by local and school dancers and the Orioles’ drum line. Droscha and his band Smash the Hall played after the game.

PHOTOS courtesy of Charlotte High School.

Little Provides Major Stride as 1st Woman to Officiate Boys Hoops Final since 1995

By Keith Dunlap
Special for MHSAA.com

April 13, 2023

Delonda Little was already a trailblazer to many before this year’s MHSAA Boys Basketball Finals.

Greater DetroitBut what happened last month at Breslin Center made her even more of one on a statewide level.

A referee and assigner for 20 years in the Detroit area, Little is a female boys and girls basketball official who mentors both male and female referees – no matter the gender or level, as she officiates high school and college games.

Officials often go to Little for guidance, direction and assignments, which has made her respected for years throughout Metro Detroit in the prep basketball community. Then, her status as a trailblazer grew even more.

Little was assigned as an official for the Division 3 Boys Basketball Final between Flint Beecher and Traverse City St. Francis, and she became the first female referee to officiate an MHSAA Boys Basketball Final since Traverse City’s Barb Beckett 1995.

“It was a very good feeling to know I was the one selected,” said Little, who officiated the Final with Matt Olson and Zach Porritt.  

In fact, while attending a Semifinal game the Friday before the Final, Little received a phone call from an area code she didn’t recognize.

She answered, and it was Beckett.

“At first I didn’t know the name,” Little said. “I said, ‘No, I don’t know you, but that’s fine.’”

Beckett then explained she was the first female referee to be assigned a Boys Basketball Final, and just wanted to offer support to Little.

At that point, Little became excited and thankful she answered the call.

“It was very nice to hear from her because she wanted to reach out and if not pass the torch, to congratulate me,” Little said.

Little, 51, said she found out she was going to be refereeing the Division 3 boys championship game just before the start of the postseason when she received an email from the MHSAA.

“I’m looking at the email and I’m like, boys?” Little said. “I was shocked.”

But she was shocked in a good way, and obviously excited for the honor.

Little monitors the action between Flint Beecher and Traverse City St. Francis.Little didn’t find out until a couple of days before the St. Francis/Beecher contest that she would be officiating that specific championship game, but the Monday of boys championship week was when she really started to receive congratulations from friends and colleagues.

That’s when an article came out in the Detroit News detailing her selection, which led to countless calls, texts and congratulatory messages on social media.

“I couldn’t even (keep up with the comments),” she said. “That’s how overwhelming the actual tags were. It came from all across the state with officials, men and women, because I do women’s college (games). Some of the college ladies were reaching out. I was getting all the hoopla before the game.”

Little said she normally doesn’t get nervous for games, but not having some nerves became a bit harder once so many people knew of her achievement.

However, she settled into a normal routine quickly once the game started.

“I wanted to get it done, get it over with and do well,” she said.

Little did do well, which is no surprise to everyone who knew her before she officiated on the boys championship stage.

It was just another feather in the cap for Little, who in 2016 became the first woman to officiate a boys Detroit Public School League championship game.

“Delonda is one of the top officials in the Detroit area, and our staff doesn’t look at Delonda as a female working a boys game – we see one of the top officials in Detroit working a basketball game,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “There are females officiating in the NBA and female officials in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The aspect that made Delonda’s selection for this MHSAA championship game nearly unique will soon be the norm at all levels of athletics.”     

Little graduated from Detroit Osborn in 1989 and starred on the basketball court at Wayne State, earning induction into WSU’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005.

Her day job is as an officer for the Michigan Department of Corrections, but her passion is officiating. She’s been an MHSAA-registered official for basketball for two decades and also was registered for volleyball for four years. This past fall she registered for football for the first time.

“I get something from it because it keeps me in shape, I love the people I work with and I like the kids,” Little said. “You are always teaching, and I like training the newer officials. I just enjoy it. I don’t know what I’d be doing if I wasn’t refereeing.”

Going forward, Little hopes her championship game assignment will now be an inspiration for other female referees.

“There aren’t very many women who would like to work boys basketball or feel comfortable,” Little said. “If that’s something they desire, I’m hoping more women are selected to work the games if they feel comfortable.”

Keith DunlapKeith Dunlap has served in Detroit-area sports media for more than two decades, including as a sportswriter at the Oakland Press from 2001-16 primarily covering high school sports but also college and professional teams. His bylines also have appeared in USA Today, the Washington Post, the Detroit Free Press, the Houston Chronicle and the Boston Globe. He served as the administrator for the Oakland Activities Association’s website from 2017-2020. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties

PHOTOS (Top) Delonda Little takes her position on the court during the Division 3 Boys Basketball Final on March 25 at Breslin Center. (Middle) Little monitors the action between Flint Beecher and Traverse City St. Francis.